A server:

  • access only via SSH (no physical access, no KVM)
  • a netboot OS (Debian/Jessie)
  • 3 x 2T HDD
  • 16G RAM

Final goal:

Building a ZFS pool with the local HDD and install Debian on a ZFS root, the netboot OS is missing packages to install ZFS via apt, that's why I want to boot a Live Debian.


  1. I wget the debian-live-11.0.0-amd64-standard.iso on /tmp
  2. I installed QEMU (via apt) and the plethora of options confuses me (I am discovering it). My most advanced attempt is this:
qemu-system-x86_64 -curses -net nic -net user -m 1024M
    -drive file=/tmp/11-live-amd64-std.iso,media=cdrom -boot c

The -curses option gives a correct result with an install iso, when the 640 x 480 Graphic mode message appears, I use <esc> to access the boot: menu of grub and I pass it the install vga=normal fb=false options and it goes (screenshot)

But with the Live iso, it doesn't work (screenshot)

These are my questions:

  1. Did I miss any QEMU option(s) to display the output that is not supposed to be graphical with this standard iso?
  2. Do I need to configure my live iso with (e.g.) a GRUB in console mode?
  3. Will I not be able to configure the port forwarding of QEMU to access the console via SSH or telnet?
  4. Is there any other solution (without QEMU)?

Thanks in advance

  • The Live ISO is graphical, so there's no text-only option anyway. You will need another approach. Install libvirtd on the remote host and then use virt-manager on your local workstation to control it via ssh tunnel and do the installation. Sep 23, 2021 at 21:50
  • @MichaelHampton I used debian-live-11.0.0-amd64-standard.iso, the CLI only version. I add this detail in my question. Thanks for pointing libvirtd, I will take a look to your proposal.
    – freezed
    Sep 23, 2021 at 22:01
  • 1
    Have you considered port forwarding and running qemu with -vnc ?
    – NiKiZe
    Sep 23, 2021 at 22:07
  • 1
    Even in "text" mode this ISO image uses the graphical framebuffer console, it outputs nothing to the serial console, and as you discovered, the install fb=false does not work. You can probably also use VNC port forwarded over ssh, but using raw qemu is so painful that it's easier in most circumstances to just use libvirtd and virt- tools to manage VMs. Sep 23, 2021 at 23:14
  • 2
    I am still trying to figure out exactly why you are doing this. Did you lease a server from a provider like OVH or Hetzner and are trying to install the OS from their rescue system? Sep 24, 2021 at 14:02

1 Answer 1


I fix this issue by using -vnc & -nographic options.

Here the final command:

qemu-system-x86_64 -nographic -net nic -net user -m 1024M -drive file=/tmp/11-live-amd64-std.iso,media=cdrom -boot c -vnc :0

With this, the machine is reachable with a VNC client.

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